Magazine article New African

Great Lakes the Shape of Things to Come: George Ola-Davies Previews the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to Be Held under UN and AU Auspices in Tanzania in Mid-2004 with the Aim of Finding Lasting Solutions to the Multifaceted Conflicts in the Region

Magazine article New African

Great Lakes the Shape of Things to Come: George Ola-Davies Previews the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to Be Held under UN and AU Auspices in Tanzania in Mid-2004 with the Aim of Finding Lasting Solutions to the Multifaceted Conflicts in the Region

Article excerpt

The human fatalities recorded by the wars in the Great Lakes Region (specifically in Rwanda, Burundi and DRCongo) have been nothing but a tragedy. Not only did the wars stifle economic development, democracy, political stability or any other form of improvement, they complicated, and to a large extent, frustrated every plan for the advancement of the region.

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Against this background, the UN made good a long-nurtured thought aimed at bringing about a long-standing and viable peace and stability to the region. In February and June 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolutions 1291 and 1304 respectively, which among other things viewed the need for an international conference on peace, security, democracy and development in the Great Lakes Region.

Subsequently, the UN secretary general mandated his special representative to the Great Lakes Region (currently, Ibrahima Fall of Senegal), to work towards organising the international conference.

The conference will embrace such themes as peace and security, democracy and good governance, economic development, regional integration, and humanitarian and social issues.

Understandably, given the long standing and deep-seated mistrust among the member states, the special representative's task in organising the conference is not an enviable one. An important issue worthy of note here is that the conference is not intended to be solely driven by the UN. It is being spearheaded jointly by the African Union.

When the conference idea was mooted, it was in recognition of some crucial issues regarding the situation in the region:

* The regional dimensions of the DRCongo conflict.

* The ethnic, cultural and linguistic interlinkage of the instability initially generated by purely internal causes in each country.

* The need to seek solutions to the conflict and instability endemic to the constituent states within a regional framework.

The past two years have witnessed some overt positive changes mainly on the political and security arena.

Rwanda went through a painful transitional process which finally led to the recent presidential, legislative and local elections that put in place an elected government.

Burundi has had the first stanza of its own transitional period, albeit with many hiccups. The first president of the transitional government in Burundi, Major Pierre Buyoya, ended his 18-month stint and peacefully handed over power to his Hutu vice president, Domitien Ndayizeye, in May 2003 in accordance with the Arusha Accord. Ndayizeye is now expected to lead the country towards democratic elections.

Tension is gradually being eased in Burundi and this has been aided by the Pretoria-brokered accord signed between the government and the rebels. To further reinforce this relief is the presence in the country of the full strength of the African peacekeeping force deployed under the auspices of the African Union.

Although the peacekeeping force still lacks the needed resources to carry out its full mandate, their presence in a number of places in the country has been largely welcome as a stabilisation element.

Regarding DRCongo, which for four years was divided into three and governed by as many regimes, the political actors have now finally, through the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, put in place a mechanism for peace. …

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